Congratulations to Ashit Desai, the winner of BBC Travel’s monthly photo competition! This month we asked you to show us images that illustrate the extreme contrasts of hot and cold.
Every month, a new winner will be inducted into our Photo Nomad Hall of Fame. We recently caught up with Desai, 55 and an avid photographer, to get the story behind his colourful shot.
I woke up early on the morning that I took this photo. I knew the day would probably involve me getting pretty wet, but I hadn’t planned on getting dyed yellow!
I was in Chengannur, India to photograph a ceremony called Manjal Neerattu. The ritual involves participants whipping their bodies with palm leaves that have been dipped in a heated mix of water and turmeric powder. The process is said to purify the mind and body. It’s beautiful – and messy.
I have been taking photographs for some time – I’ve even had some of my work picked up by Getty Images – so I didn’t care if I got wet or covered in turmeric. But I was worried about my camera being drenched. The temple courtyard where the ceremony takes place is only about 200sqft – it doesn’t leave much room for staying dry.
To get the shot, I made my way onto the creaky outdoor balcony of a neighbouring shop, and I used a telephoto lens to snap from a relatively safe distance.
Manjal Neerattu is extremely popular, so I had to get there early to secure an ideal spot. I turned up at 10am and spent four hours vying for the best views with an enthusiastic crowd. It was actually a lot of fun. In the end, I might not have gotten too wet – or too yellow – but I really felt like I was part of the whole process.
As told to Richard Conway, BBC Travel contributing editor
Richard Conway, BBC Travel contributing editor:
What’s great about Desai’s image is that he snapped the participant at just the right moment. This is a photo that is both dynamic and static. It gives the impression that something very dramatic is happening, and the photographer has slowed it all down for us to study. It makes us to feel like we are both part of the action and removed from it. This is not an easy thing to achieve, but Desai seems to have done it with ease.
Jared Kohler, New York Times contributing photographer:
This is a really great image. The steam rising from the cauldron and the gleam of sweat and turmeric on the subject’s shoulder conveys the heat that was surely enveloping the temple that day. Desai made a good decision when he narrowed in on the participant; the colour pallet consists almost entirely of warm tones. This image is also about timing: using a high shutter speed allowed him to capture the beautiful streams of liquid turning into midair droplets.
Erica Fahr Campbell, photo editor at Instagram:
I love this photo. We are immediately pulled in by the dramatic use of colour and the clever use of composition. At first, the yellow is so dominant that all we see is the cauldron, the palm leaves and the participant’s drenched back. But if we stick around longer, we see that onlookers in the background silently frame the piece, giving it extra depth.
Next month, we’ll be looking for photographs that best represent the road trip views that few have seen. See last month’s finalists and the winner for the theme of 'Unbreakable'.